Skip Global Navigation to Main Content
Skip Breadcrumb Navigation
Press Release

U.S. Government Response to the Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan

March 19, 2011

Immediately after the March 11 earthquake struck Japan, President Obama expressed America's condolences, "The United States stands ready to help the Japanese people in this time of great trial. The friendship and alliance between our two nations is unshakeable, and only strengthens our resolve to stand with the people of Japan as they overcome this tragedy." He most recently reiterated America's commitment to Japan in a statement he delivered in the Rose Garden.

The U.S. Government is working aggressively in a whole of government approach: the Departments of State, Defense and Energy, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission are working around the clock to provide necessary assistance to our great friend and ally, Japan.

Below, please find some key facts and examples of government actions as of March 18:

Humanitarian Assistance

Aid pledged:

  • USAID - $8 million
  • Department of Defense - $35 million


USAID deployed a Disaster Assistance Response Team to coordinate the U.S. Government response and support Japanese search and rescue efforts. Two urban search and rescue teams from Fairfax County, Virginia and Los Angeles County, California completed assignments in Ofunato City, Iwate Prefecture, and Kamaishi City. 144 personnel participated with 12 search dogs.

Department of Defense

To date, the U.S. Military has conducted 132 helicopter and 641 aircraft missions to assist in survivor recovery, personnel transport, and relief commodities distribution.

Materials delivered:

  • 129,000 pounds of water
  • 4,200 pounds of food

The U.S. Department of Defense is actively providing humanitarian assistance and supporting search and rescue missions. U.S. Forces Japan, the U.S. Seventh Fleet, and the III Marine Expeditionary Force are cooperating with the Japan Self-Defense Forces in Operation Tomodachi. The name for this operation was suggested by the Japanese and means "friends."

The USS Ronald Reagan is northeast of Sendai conducting relief efforts. The USNS Safeguard delivered high-pressure water pumps to Yokota Air Base for transfer to the Japanese government for use at the Fukushima power plant, and four more pumps were delivered from the Sasebo naval base. The USS Tortuga transported 279 Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) Northern Army personnel, equipment, and 90 vehicles to support Japanese rescue efforts.

The III Marine Expeditionary Unit established a Command Element in Sendai to coordinate military assistance in the area. 588 Marines, sailors, and civilians from III MEF and Marine Corps Bases Japan deployed in support of Operation Tomodachi. The III Marine Expeditionary Force has facilitated re-opening an airfield in Sendai. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Japan District is assisting U.S. Army Japan to clear debris from airfields critical to logistics and humanitarian missions.

Nuclear Power Plant at Fukushima

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the U.S. Department of Energy, and other technical experts in the U.S. government have reviewed the scientific and technical information in response to the situation at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. The Embassy recommended, as a precaution, that U.S. citizens who live within 50 miles (80 kilometers) of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant evacuate the area or to take shelter indoors if safe evacuation is not practical.

Nuclear specialists on the Disaster Assistance Response Team include 11 NRC officers, one Department of Energy officer, and one U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) officer. They are monitoring technical aspects, engaging with Japanese officials on the status of the health impacts of radiation, and providing guidance to the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo on efforts to cool reactors.

The Department of Energy has sent 17 tons of equipment, including aerial measuring devices and detectors to help detect radiation. The Department of Defense sent two humanitarian assistance survey teams with chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear expertise to Sendai and Yamagata cities.

Nine experts from the U.S. Northern Command is traveling to Japan to provide technical assistance. The Department of Defense established a chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear control center with limited decontamination assets at Yokota Air Force Base.

U.S. Forces Japan provided 150 nuclear, biological, and chemical suits to TEPCO employees.

Support for Americans in Japan

Consular officers in Japan and Washington are working around the clock to gather information to assist American citizens in Japan. The U.S. Embassy continues to deploy consular assistance teams to locate American citizens, visit shelters, and help Americans get transportation away from affected areas.

The U.S. Embassy arranged for over 600 seats on several buses for transportation from Sendai to Tokyo. The Department of State has advised U.S. citizens to defer all travel to the evacuation zone around Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant and areas affected by the earthquake and tsunami.

The Department of State authorized the voluntary departure of eligible family members of U.S. government personnel in Tokyo, Nagoya, and Yokohama. The Department of State is making arrangements for flights to locations in East Asia for American citizens wishing to depart Japan.

U.S. citizens requiring emergency consular assistance should e-mail and monitor the U.S. Department of State website at and the Embassy's website for updated information. For telephone inquiries, individuals may call 202-501-4444 or 1-888-407-4747. The Department of State's Travel Warning is also online here.

How to Support Relief Efforts

InterAction, an alliance of U. S.-based non-governmental organizations (NGOs), maintains a list of organizations accepting donations for the Japanese earthquake response at

The American Red Cross (AmRC) also receives donations through text messages of "redcross" sent to 90999.

USAID encourages cash donations because they allow aid professionals to procure the exact items needed; reduce the burden on scarce resources; can be transferred very quickly and without transportation costs; support the economy of the disaster-stricken region; and ensure culturally, dietary, and environmentally appropriate assistance.

Further Information